Looking back, taking notice

Eighteen years ago I became a parent, responsible for another human being.. It was daunting but so worthwhile and has changed me a great deal. Yet I am still the person I was back then, my need for answers, asking questions, not content or complacent, seeking improvement in what I do. However my work, the way I do it and my assessment of myself has fundamentally changed, I’ve slowed down, become more reflective and seek to be kind, compassionate and curious. Watching my daughter grow up and responding to her needs has been tricky at times, it has surfaced some deficits for me that I have found difficult to understand. I am currently exploring how to let go of long held habits of thinking and emotional flashbacks, now I know what they are it is helping. 

Helping people is my thing, I love it.. Listening and then responding with suggestions of what to do and offering possible explanatory frameworks. I am enjoying this work with students but it has also brought some painful stuff up for me. When I started nursing in 1979 I was utterly miserable. IT is no exaggeration to say that I have been traumatised by those early experiences. I worked on a ward for older people that was not what I expected, nursing was task based and I was mocked and bullied by staff on the ward. I was very unhappy and I learnt how to keep going and keep out of trouble, I didn’t learn about nursing care and respectful interventions for helping older people recover from illness. I stayed in nursing because after 6 weeks of enduring the humiliation on the ward I spent a fortnight with a district nurse. It was fabulous, person centred and everything I thought nursing would be.. My future was now clear I wanted to be a district nurse and sought to grit my teeth, put up, shut up and work towards that ambition.  I disliked hospital nursing and found it difficult, total institutions make me feel uncomfortable, unaddressed unthinking and assumptions always trouble me. I didn’t  know that then but looking back to that experience I had a horrible time. Yet I didn’t leave, I was always a good girl, keen to do the right thing and not let people down. I also didn’t have anywhere to go, no room back with my family and no sense that I could go back. 

My horrible experience of 4 years ago has really helped me forgive myself for staying in nursing and also examining that experience has helped me understand why I got so distressed with colleagues. I also now understand why I couldn’t do anything about it and why I cried so much. Four years seems a healing time and I now feel I can use that experience to help others in a  constructive way. Using my learning to protect others and to prevent toxicity building … I don’t want anybody to be treated the way I was back then… We need to help people to feel that they can call it, stop it and address the behaviours that exclude, encourage complacency and selfishness. 

This Sunday has been very different .. Celebrating a wonderful young lady who I am  proud to  know and she has taught me a great deal about the value of friendships and the importance of self belief. The reciprocity of parenting and relationships is probably the greatest lesson I have learnt. 


Education and values

I watched a programme about the Open University this week that really helped me gain some insight into my beliefs about higher education and the potential for transformation.

My first degree was with the Open University and it was truly revelatory… After years of not thinking I was very bright I found  I enjoyed learning and that I was really, really good at maths and physics – getting 100% for many of my assignments. It feels really strange to write that down and appreciate my ability.. 

I have always thought that I’d got a “noddy” degree, that in spite of working my butt off for 7 years and competently holding down a full-time job I hadn’t really fully appreciated what I’d done. Watching the programme with Lenny Henry made me realise that my degree is as good as anyone else’s and that the OU had to deliver very high quality education because it really mattered. Politicians wanted them to fail and they were always developing high quality material from the start to make sure those politicians  couldn’t criticise the teaching. 

The  vision behind the OU was also about countering privilege and entitlement… Being OPEN to anyone really flew in the face of the prevailing culture about elitism and being a graduate. Studying with the OU really did change my life, helped me see what I could do and I certainly have had 2 contrasting  academic careers thanks to that pioneering approach. I not only studied with the OU but also my first academic job was as a Tutor for a course on ageing that was very rigorous and underpinned by interdisciplinary and intersectional learning… It was fab!!!

It isn’t often that a TV programme makes a difference but this one did and I now can see why I am driven to emancipation and enablement in education and why social justice matters. 

It has sown many seeds of thought about my values in education and why it matters to me that I have meaningful relationships with students. That it isn’t enough for the teaching/learning to be transactional ..emotions play a large part for me and I want to investigate this more… 

I am going to start sharing these reflections more and start exploring what matters most for me in a caring, compassionate, critical and creative learning environment. 

Spring in the air

I have just finished reading Look What You Made Me Do by Helen Walmley-Johnson. Beautifully written and a very chilling tale.. I’m pleased I’ve read it but it wasn’t easy but it made me realise that clever women can be bullied and belittled. 

One of the questions I have found hard to answer over the last four years is why I hadn’t seen the issues at play in the organisation before I went to work there. Of course it was partially hidden, I was charmed into the post and I was burnt out and vulnerable. A chronic lack of self belief and years of never being good enough meant that the praise and flattery woed me and diminished my BS detector. I was lucky to work with an amazing woman and her support and wisdom helped me notice the harm being done and we both got out. I am now well on my way to being more self confident and recognising that as an academic I have something to offer and that leaving nursing might be the best thing I’ve ever done. I don’t regret decisions in the past but understanding the why?  and also the why not? is helpng me be kind and compassionate to my younger self. We all f**k up and sometime it is harder to forgive ourselves than others. 


Nature, writing and walking have kept me well over the last 4 years. Even when I was really stressed and under pressure from bullying I didn’t go under. I am sure it was due to 3 actions that have helped me keep a sense of perspective and are becoming effective in protecting me from other people’s stuff. They are writing very morning, walking in nature and meditation .. As long as I do 1 out of 3 I am ok, if I do 3/3 I have a really good day, it helps me maintain my boundaries and provides shields… The shields smell of ginger, pepper and bergamot… Are better than defensive responses and are helpng me surf the BS and b**lks that I wrote about in November. 

This photo is from one of my favourite walks in Washingwell Woods – I have walked there most weeks for the last 6 years…love it, the combination of woods and running water soothes my soul.

Now what? 

I wonder what you get if you combine overachievement with people pleasing? Well I think I know the answer to that ..burnout and complete frazzle!! Knowing early warning signs seems to be sensible and knowing how to look after your mental health and well being might be a good idea.

My last post proved to be a turning point and has taught me to be circumspect about how I share my musings. I forget how egocentric some folk are and how they might read things into my blog.

I had a huge issue with my previous blog in 2015 when it was used against me by some nasty folk… My mental health was questioned and my ability to function in a responsible job. Those allegations and anonymous complaints led me to resign from my job … No hesitation, no doubt. Looking back on the experience has really helped me shape my values and principles. I am beginning to be grateful to those wishing me ill… They have taught me a great deal and as a new year is just around the corner it seems like a good time to make some statements about what I want to do in 2019.. I think I need to write my book about relatiomships in professional practice and the book about finding your oomph! for young people in transitions.

Get on with it and believe in myself and cultivate confidence

Enjoying my photography again and linking poetry with my thinking..

Just wonder if other people might read it …

Asking more questions

The last few weeks have been challenging – lots of memories resurfacing and emotions that are difficult to contain. I often feel that many people have huge problems with showing emotions.. Emotional intelliegnce being interpreted as complete control..put up, shut up and mask. I’m not very good at pretending ..during my counselling my intolerance of pretence and fakery came up a lot. I value integrity, authenticity and trying best for folk around you. I am finding it increasingly impossible to put up with bulls**t and b******ks. I keep finding myself surrounded by folk who spout forth words that are vacuous and just words – no actions and no deep work. I bump into individuals who are seeking status, esteem and power – espousing concern about people but really they are being seen to be concerned. Keen to gain promotion and cynically knowing that “care” is a concern, therefore they make public their interest but treat colleagues with disdain and derision. Selfish is as selfish will be – self absorption and individualism valued more than compassion. Competitive environments are toxic to me, I find it increasingly difficult to thrive when point scoring is evident and busyness the currency of comparison. Since my career hiccup in June 2015 I just can’t do busy, busy makes me anxious, busy depletes me. People busy being busy, people being noisy about being busy make me anxious. Anxiety depletes my energy and I know I’ll end up frazzled. Protecting myself from other people’s stuff is crucial at the moment ..I’m getting there having found that ignoring nonsense is key. Focussing on folk who impress seems important and that is what I hope to get better at doing. I don’t think I’ll tolerate people who think they are better than others, I prefer humility and generosity, courage over ambition. 

These are thoughts that needed noting today, not sure what it all means and what I’ll do with them. I do know I am finding my sensitivities  questioned and my sensibilities seen as trouble. Maybe people put up with stuff and they shouldn’t. I believe that stress testing is for bridges not human beings and that I won’t put up with stuff that becomes custom and practice, habits, and ways of doing things that serve the system and erode well being by ignoring personhood. 

I’m a bit cross at the moment and want to focus my energy constructively … I’m going to read, write and learn stuff this winter. We have a moral duty to do more about the harms we do to folk in brutal and dehumanised workplaces. My own experiences of the damage done due to people protecting their patch has taught me a lot. Fear is not a good way to motivate people, it is corrosive and I want to draw attention to where it happens. 

Asking questions

“Moment by moment we can choose to go toward further clarity and happiness or toward confusion and pain” (Chodron 2009, p. 1)

I am unsure about the wisdom of sharing my thoughts on this blog – I am uncertain about whether sharing ideas here might cause me damage – a career changing moment. I had blogged about my experience of depression and anxiety – malevolent forces used it to anonymously complain about me – that complaint was a defining moment. It really didn’t matter who had instigated the action – nor did it matter that I wasn’t mentally unstable and that the complaint was vexatious and rooted in lies. As soon as I read the complaint I resigned from my job – it was about integrity and walking away from a toxic and a potentially irreversible situation.

That experience was more traumatic than I had admitted – it is only now I can allow myself to appreciate the extent of what I went through back then. I still find it tricky to trust folk and I am still encountering some triggers in the workplace but I do seem to be able to function.

I am fragile BUT not broken.

I am sensitive BUT not so delicate that you can’t challenge me.

I do show emotions but don’t be afraid of strong ones – they teach us a lot.